In Honor of Pedro DeHerrera
[Killed in Action on 08 Aug 1969]
Below is the speech given by Ava DeHerrera, daughter of 1SG Pedro DeHerrera, at our reunion banquet on August 12, 2006. Ms. DeHerrera was our special guest at our reunion August 10-12, 2006, and at the dedication of our Memorial Monument at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Hello, my name is Ava DeHerrera and my father was Sgt. 1st Class Pedro DeHerrera [the "Wall" lists him as First Sgt.]. He was born in the oldest town in Colorado named San Luis. He was one of thirteen brothers and sisters. Although I don't know much about his upbringing, I do know he was raised by another family, as his mother died when he was born. He was very poor and left to join the army at sixteen years of age. I believe he met my mother in Pueblo, Colorado, when they were both in their early 20's. My mother was a waitress and my father was already in the service. I don't know how long their courtship lasted, but they did get married and off to Germany they went for my dad's first tour of duty. It was there that my oldest brother Jerry was born. I was next; born in Lawton, Oklahoma. My younger sister, Cindy, was then born in Pueblo, Colorado, and then back to Germany for one more tour of duty where the last child was born, my youngest brother Eugene.
In 1968, when we came back to the states, my father bought a brand new car and drove across the United States. He took us to places he had never been to. We drove from Washington DC to Colorado. In Washington we saw the White House and I even have those pictures to this day, where I was wearing a pleated skirt and I was so chunky I looked like an accordion. My father then took us to see a Baltimore Orioles game and then drove through Kansas to look for tornadoes. We finally made it to Colorado which is where our home was.
All the kids in the neighborhood loved my father. He was a very kind and giving man. He would fix the kidsí bicycles and take us all for a ride in his jeep to some cliffs. He would back up to the cliffs as if he was going to go over and I would start screaming, "Let me out, Let me out." All the kids would laugh at me, but I didn't care, I was going to be safe.
I remember the day my dad left to Vietnam. My uncles, "his brothers" were at the house with him, I was watching a movie called "How to kill a mocking bird." I remember my mom telling me my dad was leaving; he was going to be gone for a long time. I didn't want to hear this; I just wanted to watch this movie to escape the inevitable. I wanted to stay focused and not hear what my mother was saying to me. My father came to say good bye, I hugged and kissed him and told him I loved him and he said to be strong and to help my mother.
We wrote to my father often and I remember one time he had told me to save my money, because when he returns we were going to Disneyland. So I taped money to a letter and mailed it off to him. Months passed and I got the same envelope back with the money still taped to the letter. My father had been killed in Vietnam, it was August 8, 1969. My whole world as I knew it had just been turned upside down. Shortly after my mother started to drink. My oldest brother and I started to get out of hand and the other two kids were young and naive. In six years my mother died of cirrhosis of the liver. My brothers, sister, and I went to live with my dad's brother Lico and his wife Rachael in Boone, Colorado. But my oldest brother Jerry and I were teenagers by now and wouldn't' listen to any one, so we went to live on our own. Jerry graduated from high school and a few years later, so did I. 1 knew I had to stay in school because people would say to me "Your dad set you up for life" I didn't really know what it meant at the time, but I knew that if I stopped going to school I wouldn't receive my social security and VA benefits. The youngest Cindy and Gene stayed living with our Aunt and Uncle. They both graduated high school and all four of us continued our education and graduated from college. I know in my heart I needed to continue my education; not only to have a better life for myself and my kids but also to not let my fathers' death be in vain. My father went to Vietnam and died for what he believed in; "A better country and a safe and secure future for his family."
NOTE: Ava DeHerra has been employed by the Pueblo Chamber of Commerce for several years. The Chamber of Commerce was very kind and generous to us at our 2010 reunion held in Colorado Springs and Pueblo when the Chamber assisted us in covering part of our reunion expenses. Ava actively particpated in all of our reunion activities. Ava's brother Eugene DeHerra, a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, was on hand to assist in our tour of the Academy.
To the children of our departed brother, Pedro DeHerrera, we Thank You!